What Does All Ears Mean?

All Ears Meaning

Definition: To listen intently, devoting one’s full attention to someone.

The idiom all ears means that one is listening with one’s full attention. If someone says, “I’m all ears,” this means that he is listening carefully, devoting his full attention to the speaker.

This is how the phrase is most commonly used. Saying, “he or she is all ears” is a less common formulation, although it is perfectly okay to use the phrase in this way.

Origin of All Ears

define all earsThis phrase originated in the 18th century. One of the first recorded uses of the phrase is in an edition of The London Magazine from 1752:

  • Now we’re all ears while —- sings.

This suggests the idiom was widely used prior to its first appearance in print.

Ways to Use All Ears

This idiom, unlike many idioms in English, has a more literal meaning. Since we use our ears to listen, it makes sense that all ears would be used to express listening intently.

meaning of all earsAll ears is used in only one way, which is to express that one is listening carefully to something that someone else is saying. The most common formulation of this phrase is, “I’m all ears.” Other formulations, such as, “She’s all ears,” “He’s all ears,” or “They’re all ears.” are less common, although all of these are correct.

All ears should not be confused with the nearly identical idiom, all eyes on someone or something.

This idiom, although similar, means that everyone in a given area is looking at someone or something. While this suggests that everyone is devoting his or her full attention to the person or thing, it does not necessarily mean that everyone is listening intently like all ears does.

Examples of All Ears

This example conversation between an employee and her boss illustrates the correct use of this idiom.

Lisa: I just wanted to let you know I have an idea for our presentation on Monday.

Leanne: What is it? I’m all ears.

More Examples

  • Parsons eagerly anticipates exploring his options in free agency as the Mavericks plan to prioritize other targets, sources told ESPN, although a return to Dallas remains a possibility. “He’ll be all ears,” one source said. – ABC News

Summary

The English idiom all ears means that someone is listening to someone else intently.